Causes of Muffled Hearing and Some Treatments

Woman in pain for tinnitus, sound and noise problem. Healthcare, pressure and hearing loss with girl suffering with muffled hearing.

Muffled hearing can happen for a wide variety of reasons. In the majority of cases, this condition is short-term. But muffled hearing can also be a sign that a more serious hearing issue is happening. Partly, that’s because, outside of sudden hearing loss, hearing loss is usually not a condition that progresses suddenly. Symptoms develop gradually and over time.

One of the earliest symptoms of gradually advancing long-term hearing loss is the sense that your hearing is muffled. However, it’s important to point out that muffled hearing in and of itself isn’t always a sign of long-term hearing loss. Every year millions of people experience muffled hearing.

Maybe you’re wondering if you should be concerned about your muffled hearing. Generally, the answer tends to vary. Recognizing the root cause of your muffled hearing is essential to finding the correct treatment strategy. Prompt solutions can in some cases help get your hearing back to normal, or, at least reduce possible damage. Contacting us for a consultation can help you begin this process, typically resulting in successful treatments, so you can continue enjoying the sounds of your everyday life.

What is muffled hearing?

Muffled hearing occurs when sound is unable to travel through your outer, middle, and inner ear in the way that it normally does. A very noticeable reduction in sound fidelity is the result. Hearing won’t be totally gone with muffled hearing but things will sound garbled and quieter. This might especially impact your ability to hear and understand voices and spoken language.

In many instances, and depending on the underlying cause, muffled hearing can be accompanied by a sense of fullness or stuffiness in your ears. Sometimes, when you’re on a plane or have a cold you may experience this feeling. This plugged feeling, however, doesn’t always come with muffled hearing.

Causes of muffled hearing

Muffled hearing can be caused by all kinds of issues. Determining the underlying cause of your muffled hearing can be important in establishing an effective treatment plan. Some of the most prevalent causes of muffled hearing include the following:

  • Sensorineural hearing loss: Sometimes, muffled hearing can be the outcome of noise-related hearing loss. Sadly, this kind of hearing loss is usually irreversible. Muffled hearing is often one of the earliest detectable symptoms; but by the time you notice the distorted sounds, damage to your stereocilia has most likely already taken place. If you don’t seek out treatment quickly, your hearing will rapidly get worse.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When you have Menier’s Disease, you suffer from persistent hearing and balance issues. Dizziness, balance issues, tinnitus, and muffled ears will develop over time as a result of this disease. There’s no cure for Meniere’s Disease, but symptoms can be managed.
  • Infection: In some cases, issues like infections (such as sinus infections or ear infections) can cause inflammation in the ear canal (this is particularly true with ear infections). This will decrease your hearing ability by causing the ear canal to swell shut. Muffled hearing symptoms due to infections will normally clear up once the underlying illness has been treated.
  • Age-associated hearing loss: As you age, your hearing can diminish as a result of natural causes. Obviously, when you’re 80 all of your senses will be less sharp than when you were 18. This normal decline in your hearing ability can cause muffled hearing over time.
  • Earwax buildup: Usually, earwax is a positive thing. It helps keep your ear canal healthy. But muffled hearing (and in some instances even hearing loss) can be the consequence of too much earwax. This earwax can typically be loosened up by using a couple of drops of hydrogen peroxide. Never attempt to free stuck earwax by using a cotton swab which will only push the wax further up into the ear canal. We can help if the problem continues.
  • Travel: Altitude changes, such as when you’re on a plane, can lead to a feeling of muffled ears. In most instances, this feeling will go away rapidly and your hearing will go back to normal.

Depending on the underlying cause, the precise symptoms of muffled hearing will differ.

Is there a cure for muffled hearing?

Some types of muffled hearing can’t be cured. The treatment for your muffled hearing will differ depending on the root cause. For instance, if excessive earwax buildup is the primary cause, we may use specific tools to help you clean out your ear canal. Muffled hearing caused by an ear infection will usually clear up once the infection has been addressed, so antibiotics are usually prescribed.

In terms of sensorineural hearing loss, the emphasis changes to symptom management rather than a complete cure. That’s because sensorineural hearing loss can not be reversed. But it is possible to manage symptoms. There may be several strategies to this treatment including a set of hearing aids.

With hearing aids, you can keep enjoying your daily activities without hearing loss impacting your quality of life.

How to avoid muffled hearing in the first place

No matter what you do, certain forms of muffled hearing can’t be avoided. Infections, for example, can’t always be avoided.

Getting your hearing examined, however, can help detect any causes of muffled hearing and can help avoid any long-term hearing loss that may be developing. Contact us for an appointment right away.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.


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